- A manatee was found in Florida on Sunday with “TRUMP” scraped into its back.
- The Fish and Wildlife Service is investigating the incident as a possible crime in violation of the Endangered Species Act.
- The perpetrator could face a $50,000 fine or a year in federal prison, according to an investigator.
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A manatee with “TRUMP” scraped into its back was discovered in a Florida river on Sunday, prompting an investigation by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.
Authorities are seeking information on who might have harassed the West Indian manatee, also known as a Florida manatee. The species concentrates in the warmer waters of the Citrus County area during the winter months.
“It’s been my experience that this is very out of character for this community,” Craig Cavanna, a senior federal wildlife officer and the investigating officer of this incident, told The Citrus Chronicle, which first reported on the investigation. “Wildlife conservation is a core value in Citrus County. That’s why it’s called the Nature Coast.”
President Donald Trump won just over 70% of the county’s vote in the 2020 Presidential Election, according to Politico.
Cavanna said he and other officials involved in the investigation were “following leads” and that harassment of a manatee is a criminal offense under the Endangered Species Act, punishable by a $50,000 fine, up to a year in federal prison, or both.
Both the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and the Fish and Wildlife Service confirmed to Business Insider that the incident was real and is being investigated by the USFWS.
“West Indian manatees are essential members of the ecosystems in which they inhabit and are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act,” Aurelia Skipwith, director of the Fish and Wildlife Service, said in a statement. She added that the agency is asking anyone with information about the case to call its wildlife crime tips hotline at 1-844-397-8477, or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
A photo and video of the manatee was released to the Citrus Chronicle, and photo editor Matthew Beck said it came from the Fish and Wildlife Service. It shows the word Trump scraped across the manatee’s back in bold capital letters. However, Fish and Wildlife Service spokesperson Christina Meister told Business Insider that the agency “cannot share any associated images/video at this time.”
Additionally, Meister said it didn’t appear the manatee was seriously injured, as the letters appeared to be scraped into the algae on the manatee’s back.
West Indian manatees have been listed as threatened under the Endangered Species Act since 2017. They were previously classified as endangered until the federal government announced the population had somewhat rebounded.
According to the Fish and Wildlife Service, manatees are specifically protected under the Marine Mammal Protection Act, which prohibits the harassment, hunting, capturing or killing of marine mammals, particularly those listed under the Endangered Species Act.
The discovery of the manatee came days after extremist Trump supporters infiltrated the US Capitol building, an event that killed at least five people.